While many mistake Auckland as New Zealand's capital, it is the largest city, with over 1.4 million New Zealanders living there. To put that in perspective, the population of New Zealand is only 4.5 million. Known as the City of Sails, this is the most multicultural city in New Zealand, with the largest Polynesian population in the world, and the city is also very popular with foreign students.
What to see and do in Auckland
Visitors to Auckland should take a trip up the Sky Tower. This is the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere, and the best way to get a panoramic view over Auckland. There are two restaurants in the tower, one revolving, so your view is constantly changing. Not only can you take in the view and have a meal in the Sky Tower, but if you're feeling brave you can walk around the outside or jump off (in a harness of course).
Take a walk on the wild side at Auckland Zoo, and get up close to some cute and cuddly (and some not so cute and cuddly) animals. This is New Zealand's largest collection of exotic and native animals, so make sure you take a few hours to have a wander around, and bring a picnic basket to save on pricey zoo food. Don't forget to visit the Kiwi's in their dark enclosure.
The Auckland Museum tells the story of New Zealand from its unique flora and fauna to the country's history at war. You will also find a priceless collection of Maori and Pacific treasures. The museum's galleries showcase the natural, cultural and social history of New Zealand. The museum is housed in a heritage building on top of a hill that has spectacular views of the city.
Why not Climb Mount Eden? From the top you'll have a panoramic view of Auckland, so head up in time for the sun to rise for a gorgeous start to the day. Only 4.5km's from the CBD, this giant crater was once a volcano so take the time to climb up if you can, and make sure you bring a camera.
Head to Piha Beach, which is the most famous surf beach in New Zealand, this is a great place to explore, or simply work on your tan. For something a bit quieter, head to nearby Karekare which is a black sand beach that you'll recognize from the 1993 movie “The Piano”. Make sure you swim between the flags in New Zealand, as the water can get rough.
If you are interested in History then visit the Howick Historical Village which has the most extensive collections of early colonial buildings in New Zealand.
Auckland has some of the best shopping in New Zealand, with areas like Newmarket, Ponsonby, and Parnell bursting with local and international stores.
Head to High Street, which has many local brands, or take a trip down to hip Ponsonby where you'll find bars and cafés as well as some more funky shops.
Britomart is in downtown Auckland, right on the waterfront, and here you'll find many international brands that you won't find anywhere else. There's also a farmers market in Britomart every Saturday from 8.30 to 12pm where you'll find local produce.
Newmarket is sometimes referred to as “New Zealand's Fashion Capital”, so head to the Broadway strip to see what makes this area so popular. This is where you'll find more upmarket shops, with some of the top designers having stores here.
For those who want to see the more multi-cultural side of New Zealand, check out the Otara Market which opens at 7am every Saturday. This is New Zealands largest market, sometimes seeing 5000 people. This market has a lot of stalls which are run by Asian, Pacific Island, and Maori sellers. You're bound to pick up a souvenir or two here, along with produce, jewellery and art and crafts. Make sure you skip breakfast that morning, since every culture is also selling delicious ethnic food such as pork buns, Indian, and Cook Island donuts.
Food in Auckland
Auckland has a plethora of lip-licking restaurants available, and whatever you're in the mood for you're bound to find it here.
If you're after Italian food, try Toto' Ristorante on Nelson Street. The food here is so good you'll have to wear your loose pants, and the service is second to none. On a Saturday night you'll even be serenaded by Opera singers.
Those who like Thai food will want to check out the Blue Elephant Thai restaurant on Parnell Road. This small, intimate restaurant has an extensive menu and is great for those on a budget.
If you're looking for decent portions and “real” Indian food, head to Oh Calcutta Indian Cuisine and Tandoor which is one of the most popular Indian restaurants in Auckland. This restaurant is also on Parnell road, and on a Friday and Saturday night you might want to make a reservation since it can get quite crowded.
Auckland is one of the warmest cities in New Zealand, and it can get quite humid in summer, and wet in winter. You won't experience the chill of the South Island in Auckland, as the winters are much milder and it rarely snows. The best time to visit Auckland is in summer, when you can explore the city and surrounding area.
Early September is New Zealand Fashion Week, and a chance for local designers to show off their collections. Check out the schedule at nzfashionweek.com, and grab a ticket for entry to the Designer Selection Shows, where you'll get to see every single designer and clothes from their current season.
If you're in New Zealand in March you must check out Pasifika. This has been voted as New Zealand's most important arts event, and tens of thousands of people turn up every year to learn more about the Pacific food, culture and music.
The Auckland International Buskers festival runs from the 25th to the 28th of January and runs from noon every day. This festival features eleven of the best street performers in the world, and is a not-to-be-missed event.
With great shopping and restaurants, awesome beaches, and vibrant nightlife, make sure you spend a few days in Auckland when you arrive in New Zealand.
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